USG discusses a cappella funding, discrimination on campus

Two University of Connecticut student A cappella groups had very different experiences with Undergraduate Student Government Wednesday night, as one group saw funding for a CD sail through the Senate, while another faced nearly an hour of debate over whether to reimburse the group for a CD produced last year before being voted down.

USG has not funded student A cappella groups in previous years, but after a recent town hall event, many A cappella groups realized that they could, in fact, apply for funding to record, mix and master CDs. Legislation concerning the first of the two acappella groups, “Extreme Measures,” provided $2000 to the group for the purpose of creating a CD, though the funding would not be used for replicating or distributing it. That bill passed by a wide margin.

Immediately following the passage of funding for “Extreme Measures,” “UConn Chordials,” an all-female A cappella group, performed “Itty Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris for the assembled senators. The key difference between the two bills, as emerged in the ensuing debate, was the issue of reimbursing Chordials for a CD that the group fundraised for and produced in 2014.

“If this piece of legislation was already funded through fundraising, why are they asking for money from USG when it has already been paid for? If they’re going to use this money toward their next CD, why not just go through the normal funding process next semester?” Senator Daniel Byrd said.

The bill’s author, Senator Domenica Ghanem, argued that USG failed to provide money that should have been given to the Chordials in 2014, and should reimburse the group $4325.00 in order to address that issue.

“The miscommunication was not about whether we do giveaways, but they applied for funding for replication as well as recording, mixing and mastering. When they were denied funding because USG doesn’t fund replication of CDs, they weren’t told why,” Ghanem said. “Otherwise, they would have gone back and applied for just recording, mixing and mastering and they would have gotten the funding. It’s the fault of USG because we have not been good communicators.”

Funding board chair Rishita Jani, who has in the past opposed making exceptions to funding board policy for groups such as the UConn rowing team, argued that USG should consider reimbursing the group. This was due to the fact that the Chordials had to fundraise a large amount of money in order to produce the CD and should have been provided funding in previous years.

“Who cares if they fundraise? I’m sure it takes more money than we can provide, so kudos to [the Chordials] for fundraising that amount,” Jani said.

Despite vocal support from several senators, the legislation failed after a standing vote, although several opponents of the legislation encouraged the Chordials to apply for funding for specific projects in the future.

The Senate also heard from several members of Residential Assistants for Social Justice, who spoke briefly on the vandalism of the spirit rock Tuesday morning.

“What happened the other day was an act of censorship. Someone wanted someone’s view to be obscured. No one is saying black lives matter more, but let’s focus on one issue at a time,” said Dominic Ortiz, a member of RAs for Social Justice. “Racism doesn’t exist in the way that it used to, but it’s through these subtle acts of silence and censorship. What happened is what’s helping continue [the cycle of racism].”

Several Senators spoke on their own experiences with discrimination. President-elect Rachel Conboy spoke on the difficulty many senators may have in relating to their constituents, who may come from a wide background. The most important thing, she said, is to learn about their concerns and attend events to help understand the issues facing the UConn community.

“As a Senator, it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t understand every experience my constituents have.’ It’s okay to say that, but keep having those conversations and learning. In USG, we are the only elected organization that can say ‘this is not okay,’ and take steps to change that.”

In other business, the Senate approved an addition $5800 in funding for the New York Times readership program, which now costs a total of $22,800. USG also passed legislation that would bring the Wall Street Journal to UConn, allocating $12,000 to bring 200 copies of the newspaper to Storrs six days a week, beginning in the Fall semester of 2015.




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